Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Root Vegetable Nikujaga with Oyster Mushrooms

If you don't know by now, I'm constantly on the hunt for simple foods I can throw together quickly and easily.  While keeping up on the latest news one fine morning, I saw an easy recipe for a Japanese-style beef stew called "nikujaga" ("niku" means meat and "jaga" means "potato").  It really seemed like a no-brainer since I had been toying with the idea of making a beef stew for a while and this specific recipe really appealed to me because it didn't look or sound heavy at all.  It looked and sounded light and seemed like it could really fill you up without weighing you down.  However, I really wasn't all that thrilled with just having carrots and potatoes, given that there are other insanely awesome root vegetables (I mean, come ON... it's FALL!).  Plus, a couple of my really good friends (the main chefs for their families) had recently made their own beef stews and had completely omitted potatoes and instead used all the other root vegetables.  I quickly wondered if those root vegetables would also work for an Asian-style beef stew.

The result of my particular experiment was a huge success!  The key to this dish comes from being able to make sure the ginger is minced enough that you get the flavor melded nicely through and through without getting a bite of "ginger!".  The flavors of the root vegetables blend very well with each other in this light "soup" adding their own particular sweetness while absorbing all that deliciousness.  This will easily feed our family of four (actually, there's 7 of us because there's our two Housemates and one of Housemate's girlfriend is staying with us temporarily until their apartment becomes available) for the night.  And I say "for the night" quite literally because even though there is technically enough to feed my entire house for three nights, everybody has stuffed themselves silly because this stew IS so good AND it's so light.  (Honestly, I'm a little PO'd because I originally made this with freezing in mind (we do still have a sh!t ton of leftovers from my birthday shindig) and there's nothing left for me to even bring for my lunch tomorrow!)

Just an FYI:  This stew itself doesn't have a lot of liquid and whatever little is left will get reabsorbed into the root vegetables.  If you want more liquid, the taste will be more dilute but is still yummy nonetheless.  Anyhoo... try making this tonight for your family and bask in the glory of an insanely delicious beef stew that won't make you feel like a sack of bricks!

What you'll need:
-  2lbs ground beef

-  1 large yellow onion, diced

-  1 small celery root, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)

-  2 parsnips, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)

-  3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)

-  3 carrots, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
I know, these aren't peeled... I got lazy!

-  3 tbsp of chopped (finely minced is preferable) fresh ginger

-  2 cups of coarsely chopped oyster mushrooms

-  1.5 cups of low sodium chicken stock (or if you want more liquid, add 3 cups)

-  1/2 cup coconut aminos

-  Chopped green onion

-  Sea salt (for taste)

1.  In large Dutch oven, heat about 4 tbsp of lard (or whatever your cooking fat of choice is) over medium heat.  Add ground beef and brown.


2.  Once beef is no longer pink, add ginger and mix thoroughly.  Let cook for about a minute.

3.  Add onions and mix everything together.  Stir occasionally until onions are softened, about 5 minutes.

4.  Add the root vegetables, chicken broth, and coconut aminos.  Don't worry if the vegetables aren't covered by the liquid.  Mix thoroughly.

5.  Cover and adjust heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, let simmer on LOW for at least 30 minutes.

6.  Add oyster mushrooms and mix.  Cover and let simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

7.  Adjust taste accordingly with some sea salt.

8.  Spoon into bowl, sprinkle on the chopped green onions, serve and enjoy!!!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Slow-Cooked Bulgogi Brisket (Crockpot)

Hooray for big cuts o' meat hiding in my freezer because holy cow, I had no clue what I was going to make for dinner to feed those hungry mouths!  The beauty of these huge hunks is that I can easily throw it into the oven to cook slowly or throw it into the crockpot.  And seriously, I loveloveLOVE my crockpot.  Anything that I can throw in there in the morning results in dinnertime awesomeness in the evenings.  While browsing through recipes on the Internets, I wasn't too keen on most of them, mainly because they were calling for rubs (some of the spices aren't in my pantry) or were calling for sauces that contained all kinds of awful things like HFCS and the dubious "natural flavorings" (seriously, what ARE "natural flavorings"???).  While getting demotivated with all the recipes, I finally remembered about my Bulgogi Marinade and wondered if I could use it in the crockpot.

The smells that assaulted our noses when we all came home was intensely warm and inviting!  And it wasn't just my family who loved this brisket as quite a few of my foodie coworkers really enjoyed it as well.  In fact, one of them (my cubie) said that trying to finish the brisket off in the oven defeats the purpose of crockpot cooking so I'll leave it up to you if you want to give it a shot.  Otherwise, I hope you'll enjoy it too!

What you'll need:
-  Beef brisket

-  Korean Bul-Go-Gi Marinade (+1 tbsp of sea salt)

1.  Using a fork, stab brisket several times to make sure the marinade will penetrate thoroughly.  Put everything together into large Ziploc bag and let marinade in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

OptionalLine crockpot with some foil.  This will make the brisket easier to take out

2.  Place brisket into crockpot, fat side down.  Pour all remaining marinade into the crockpot.  Cover and cook on LOW for 1 - 1.5 hours per pound (since my brisket is about 3 pounds, I let my brisket cook for approximately 5 hours)

3.  Remove brisket and...

... optional: if you want to get a "burnt crust", broil brisket under HIGH for about 5 - 10 minutes.

4.  Let brisket rest for about 20 minutes.  Slice up brisket, serve, and enjoy!

Side Note:
Wondering what to do with the leftover juice?  It's too sweet to turn into a gravy to drizzle onto the brisket on account of the honey BUT if you reduce it to about half the volume on a pan on your stovetop, this will turn into an easy glaze to glaze whatever meats you're thinking of barbecuing on your grill!

Waste not want not, amm-ai-riiight????

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lazy Seafood Stew

One of my most favorite dishes in the whole wide world (especially since I can eat all kinds of shellfish now) is cioppino.  There's something about the meld of the different kinds of seafood in a rich tomato-y broth that really hits the spot without weighing you down, especially when the weather's starting to become cooler.  But given my current schedule of work, class, and kids, I don't exactly have the kind of time to be picking out clams, mussels, and crabs (sorry, you should always go fresh with these or you're gonna be eating rubber).  Shoot, my cooking nowadays is throw-everything-into-the-(crock)pot-and-keep-your-fingers-crossed-that-the-end-result-is-palatable!  So when I came across this recipe for a Seafood Stew, I was super stoked because it looked incredibly easy and fit my criteria of throwing everything into the pot with very minimal prep time.

I was able to get away with buying whatever fish and shrimp were available in the frozen section and it was unfortunate that there weren't any frozen scallops but c'est la vie.  I ended up substituting the scallops for an extra bag of frozen fish.  Last but not least, because even trying to peel, smash, and chop garlic is taking more time than I deem necessary, I've been using the Minced Garlic from Penzeys, which has been more than awesome for this time-strapped mom!  Even with my modifications, the end result is still one hearty and delicious stew that's sure to warm you up without weighing you down.  As for my family, they've pretty much eaten the entire batch in one sitting which is awesome news (because they loved it!) but also bad news (because what the eff am I going to eat for lunch tomorrow???).  Anyhoo, hope you enjoy it just as much as they did!

What you'll need:
-  2lbs of frozen fish (cod, sole, halibut, snapper) cut into 2-in chunks (I'm willing to bet salmon would be effing awesome too!)

-  2lbs of frozen raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

-  8 - 10 tomatoes, sliced into wedges

-  1 bottle of clam juice

-  3 - 5 garlic cloves, chopped (or use Penzeys!)

-  1/2 cup of fresh basil, finely sliced (use your kitchen shears, it's MUCH faster!)

-  White wine (I used a chardonnay from Cupcake) or sake/soju (or whatever rice wine)

1.  Heat fat of choice in Dutch oven over medium heat.  Once heated through, add garlic and saute until just-golden and super fragrant.

2.  Add tomatoes and clam juice to the garlic.  Fill empty clam juice bottle halfway with wine and pour that into the pot.  Give it a quick stir to mix, then cover and let simmer (about 5 minutes)

3.  Add fish and shrimp to the simmering liquid

4.  Add the basil.  Stir to mix everything thoroughly, cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until fish and shrimp are cooked.

5.  Ladle into bowls, serve, and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Attack of the Immune System!

Things have been pretty rough lately.  Lil T (a.k.a. Kettlebell) still isn't sleeping through the night.  Despite being pretty good about eating as cleanly whenever and wherever possible, I'm so metabolically deranged it's getting translated into the worst eczema flare-up I've had since I was 10.  So what's been going on, you ask?  Aside from the sleepless nights, I've been under some kerAZY stress lately.  In an effort to better myself as a means of helping be better providers for our kiddies, I've decided to take a Data Analytics class.  This meant that I'd be in class two weekday evenings and Saturday afternoons.  Of course, this wouldn't have been possible without Hubs, who was going to be single-parenting it while I'm slugging away at learning new and unfamiliar things.  And not just on those days I have class, but also on the other days of the week when I actually have to devote some time to studying said new things.  And this all in addition to the other tasks of running a household and being a parent.  I've let my nutrition slip a bit here and there, but I still prided myself on eating pretty well.  But nutrition isn't going to do a single thing if I'm not getting the rest I need and managing my stress levels.  Remember too, that my eczema is genetically inherited, and not likely to ever go away even if I were to spend the rest of my days living in perfect Paleo contentment in a beach house on Maui or something (but how awesome would that be?!?!).  In fact, it's gotten so bad that I've ended up having to take Benadryl before bedtime.  I worried that there might be residual effects on Lil T since I'm still nursing, but the only thing I was warned about was a sleepier-than-usual baby.  Since I'm only nursing him at night, I was A-OK with that (cue the stone-throwing for drugging my helpess child)!

I'm including a bunch of pictures not because I feel that y'all need to be thoroughly grossed out but because I feel that this is just as important as any pictures of people going through their weight-loss goal.  Most people (usually women) brush me off when I tell them about Paleo (only because they ask!) because they don't see me as "needing" to lose any weight.  This is true.  I never got on the Paleo bandwagon because I "needed" to lose weight.  I wanted something that was truly healthy, something that made sense to my body metabolically and scientifically.  Because everything the medical establishment has ever told me about my body and its varying conditions has always been a Band-Aid, a means to relieve, to alleviate the symptoms rather than treating the root cause.  And because obesity is just one of the symptoms of metabolic derangement, so is dermatitis in just about any form (eczema, psoriasis, etc).  I didn't include pictures of every place on my body that has a rash or a really rough patch because that would be overkill.  However, if these things gross you out, definitely scroll past the pics and onto the prettier pictures I have below of FOOD (mmm... food...).  So here goes:

My right thumb.

My right index and middle fingers...

My chest (it's a little hard to see the dark blotches but it's pretty apparent that the coloration is not normal and the skin is dry).

My left ribcage.

My right hip.

My left calf.

The back of my right thigh.

My right foot.

My left foot.

It's been very difficult, to say the least.  In between barely getting any rest and still having to slog it to work at the bright and early time of 5:30am, I feel like I'm practically at my wits' end.  But I just have to hang in there for another month, when the training program is officially over, and I can start to work on myself again.  But these days are tough, for sure.  When I'm at work, I'm thinking about what to make for dinner so that all Hubs has to do is pick up the kids and feed them.  When I'm at home, I'm thinking about all the things I need to get done for my training program and for work.  When I'm in training, I'm thinking about all the chores and errands I need to get run.  I'm constantly thinking about what needs to get done next and my immune system is loudly protesting in a very physical way.  Frankly, my immune system's just about had it with me and I can't blame it.

In the meantime, I can only do what I can with food.  I need to REALLY dial it in, nutritionally.  And I also need to work on destressing here and there.  I finally found a great dermatologist who pretty much confirmed everything I already knew:  sleep is the most important, followed by destressing, followed by good nutrition (I should've asked her if she's Paleo).  In the meantime, she's getting me started with a powerful topical steroid ointment.  We're both hoping this will help with my skin because the next option, if this doesn't work, is prednisone.  And prednisone is something they give people whose immune systems are really haywire and I'm still in denial.

In the meantime, my diet has included some home-made coconut milk yogurt with fresh strawberries...

... and bacon-wrapped sweet potatoes...

... pork broth (made from some super awesome meaty bones) with watercress...

... and once, a grilled cedar-wrapped sea bass and mango (just because I'm THAT lucky to have such an awesome and kickass coworker who made extra just for me!).

Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me as I try to navigate through the next month with my immune system (and my SKIN!) intact!